Wed, Sep 20, 2006
Northrop, BAE Says Systems Are Ready For Widespread Use
The threat of shoulder-fired missiles striking commercial
aircraft is seen as very real... not just against
passenger-carrying airliners, but for cargo operators as well. If
you need confirmation of that, recall the November 2003 missile
attack against an Airbus A300 flying for freight hauler DHL near
That attack -- which, fortunately, resulted in no injuries --
caught the attention of other cargo haulers, as well... and over
the next 18 months, FedEx will equip 11 of its Boeing MD-10
Freighters with a missile deterrent system designed by Northrop
Called the Guardian, the defense system uses a multi-band laser
to throw off the infrared heat detectors employed in many
The move is a part of a $109 million feasibility study conducted
by the Department of Homeland Security to see if such a system can
be implemented fleet-wide in a cost-effective manner.
The bathtub-sized Guardian system is also certified for use on
the MD-11 and Boeing's 747.
Bloomberg reports that, like Northrop, competitor BAE Systems is
also working on missile-defense technology -- and both
manufacturers believe their systems are ready for prime time, with
an estimated cost per passenger seat mile (CASM) of $.003.
That's an assertion John Meenan, executive vice president of the
Air Transport Association, disputes.
"We have seen no evidence to suggest that they can get this
technology to a level where it is realistic in terms of the
commercial operating environment," said Meenan in a recent
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